Battlesbridge Conservation Area Appraisal and Management Plan

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1. Introduction

1.1 Battlesbridge is a small rural settlement on the upper estuary of the River Crouch, situated partly within Chelmsford Borough and partly within Rochford District. It is located at the tidal limit of the river, where it forms an important crossing point. The history of Battlesbridge is intimately linked with the river, and its present appearance owes much to centuries of riverside industry. Today Battlesbridge is best known as a centre for antiques and collectables.

1.2 The Battlesbridge conservation area boundary is loosely drawn around the historic industrial core of the settlement where the principal historic buildings are largely associated with functions relating to the river. It encompasses marsh and drainage land on both sides of the river. The bridge provides the focus at the centre of the conservation area. Other important structures and buildings include former mill buildings, the Barge pub, farm buildings and cottages.

1.3 Conservation areas are 'Areas of Special Architectural or Historic Interest, the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance' (Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990). Government Planning Policy Guidance 15, Planning and the Historic Environment, emphasises that the character of conservation areas derives not simply from the quality of individual buildings, but also depends on 'the historic layout of property boundaries and thoroughfares; on a particular "mix" of uses; on characteristic materials; on appropriate scaling and detailing of contemporary buildings; on the quality of advertisements, shop fronts, street furniture and hard and soft surfaces; on vistas along streets and between buildings; and on the extent to which traffic intrudes and limits pedestrian use of space between buildings' (para. 4.2).

1.4 Designation of a conservation area extends planning controls over certain types of development, including extensions, boundary treatments, the demolition of unlisted buildings and works to trees. However it does not prevent any change and the area may be subject to pressures (good and bad) that will affect its character and appearance. Battlesbridge derives much of its special character from the surviving evidence of its historic role as a centre for riverside industrial activity. The decline of traditional industries has created pressures for change, and Battlesbridge has successfully reinvented itself as a centre for the sale of antiques and crafts since the 1960s. However some changes constitute a threat to the special character of Battlesbridge, including change of use of redundant buildings, new development, and demand for modernisation and improvement of existing properties.

1.5 This conservation area appraisal was prepared jointly by Essex County Council, on behalf of Rochford District Council, and by Chelmsford Borough Council. The research and fieldwork were carried out in October 2006 and January 2007.

1.6 The appraisal provides a brief development history of the current settlement, followed by a description and assessment of character. The contribution of its different elements to the character is identified. Any issues which may affect the protection of character will be highlighted and opportunities for enhancement identified.

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